Classical Liberalism: The Unvanquished Ideal Paperback – 5 Oct 1998
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'In sum Conway's book presents a powerful and I think unanswerable response to hostile critics of classical liberalism.' - Antony Flew, The Salisbury Review
' ...a book that breaks with libertarian orthodoxy by attempting to come down squarely on the consequentialist side of the fence, and a book that, as a result, is the most convincing case for libertarianism in print.' - Jeffrey Friedman, Critical Review
'Conway's exceptionally well-organised defence of classical liberalism is well worth the attention of all students of political theory.' - David Gordon, The Mises Review
'This is an outstanding work of scholarship in the long-neglected philosophy of classical liberalism. It demonstrates for the student and the general reader the strengths of classical liberalism over other schools of thought in explaining the historic transformation of societies in recent years in all continents.' - Arthur Seldon, Founder President of the Institute of Economic Affairs
'As a summary of the arguments for classical liberalism, and of the chief criticisms to which it has been exposed, Conway's book seems to me invaluable.' - John Gray, Jesus College, Oxford
About the Author
DAVID CONWAY is Professor of Philosophy and Head, School of Philosophy and Religious Studies, Middlesex University. He was educated at the Universities of Cambridge and London. His previous publications include A Farewell to Marx. His main research interests are in moral and political philosophy.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
David Conway not only presents short defenses (both economic and non-economic) of the classical liberal social order, he also deals by turns with recent critics of the "minimal State" -- including Alasdair MacIntyre, John Rawls, and John Gray -- showing in each case either (a) that their criticisms are not well-founded, or (b) that the classical liberal social order can do what they want better than their proposed alternatives. (In some cases Conway makes better sense of these critics than they can make of themselves.)
The entire enterprise is conducted with a winning combination of scholarly politeness and uncompromising, pull-no-punches intellectual rigor. This is just a darn good book.
Don't take my word for it; John Gray himself (a former classical liberal, sort of) endorses the book on its back cover. Even one of Conway's targets, then, regards the book as at least a helpful summary of classical liberal arguments.
The author considers the counter arguments of so-called egalitarian liberals, communitarians, and conservatives. Those arguments contend that classical liberalism ignores or misunderstands social realities.
The inequality concerns of modern liberals are rejected by the author. No where in the book does the author admit to the freedom diminishing and well-being threatening consequences of the ability of the powerful to unduly influence the structure and workings of laws, governmental makeup, workplaces, etc. By definition, freedom, and not coercion, is being exercised. Curiously, the generational transfer of inequality is not addressed. Surely that violates classical liberalism's claim that success is due to personal choices, not those of one's parents.
The communitarian and conservative concerns with stable communities are also dismissed. Of course, that is hardly surprising because social embeddedness is merely a choice of individuals and not a fundamental characteristic to respect and preserve. Harm can only occur to individuals, not communities. Interestingly and revealingly, according to the author the instrumental and dispersed community of stockholders in a corporation should have their investments protected moreso than those who have put down roots (invested) in a geographical community.
The book suffers from a failure to consider actual, real-world societies that have dealt with the ramifications of capitalism and by extension classical liberalism - for example, Germany, Scandinavia, Holland, etc come to mind. In those societies it is recognized that capitalism randomly creates winners and losers. Those societies have chosen to not let mere chance and generated inequalities destroy lives. For example, a plant closing is very costly to a business in Europe: stockholder rights do not trump those of workers.
As one reads this book, the arguments even as described by the author of those who see the shallowness and disingenuity of classical liberalism are very persuasive. The author's dismissal of those views is not.
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